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Friday, 20 October 2017
 

Surat Al-Maida -5- Medinian –Ayats 120 – Section – Nine– Verses 90-100

COMMENTARY:
 (Verses 90-91)- See Surat Al-Bagara 2 verse 219: (a) Al-Khamr – The Wine: literally understood to mean the fermented juice of grape; applied by analogy to all fermented liquor, and by further analogy to any intoxicating liquor or drug. There may possibly be some benefit in it, but that harm is greater than the benefit, especially if we look at it from a social as well as an individual point of view.
Al-Maisir= Gambling: literally; it is a means of getting something too easily, getting a profit without working for it; then it is gambling. That is the principle on which gambling is prohibited. The form most familiar to the Arabs was gambling by casting lots by means of arrows, on the principle of a lottery: the arrows were marked, and served the same purpose as the modern lottery ticket. Something, e.g. the carcasses of a slaughtered animal, was divided into unequal parts. The marked arrows were drawn from a bag. Some were blank, and those who drew them got nothing. Others indicated prizes, which were big or small. Whether you got a big share or a small share -or nothing- depended on pure luck, unless there was fraud also on the part of some persons concerned. The principle on which the objection is based is: that, even if there is no fraud, you gain what you have not earned, or lose on a mere chance. Dice and wagering are rightly held to be within the definition of gambling. But insurance is not gambling, when conducted on business principles. Here the basis for calculation is statistics on a large scale, from which mere chance is eliminated. The insurers themselves pay premium in proportion to risks, exactly and statistically calculated.
Hoarding is no use either to us, or to anyone else. We should use the wealth we need; and any superfluous, we must spend in good works or in charity.
Gambling and intemperance are social as well as individual sins. They may ruin us in our ordinary every-day worldly life, as well as our spiritual future. In case it is suggested that there is no harm in little indulgence, we are asked to think over all its aspects, social and individual, - worldly and spiritually.
The idea in Islam is not to make God’s Laws a burdensome fetter, but to ease a man’s path in all kinds of difficult situations by putting him on his honor and trusting him. The strictest probity is demanded of him, but if he falls short of it, he is told that he cannot escape God’s punishment, even though he may evade human punishment.          
(b) The stones there referred to were stones altars or stone columns on which oil was poured for consecration, or slabs on which meat was sacrificed to idols. Any idolatrous or superstitious practices are here condemned. The Ansab=أنصاب were objects of worship, and were common in Arabia before Islam. (c) The arrows there referred to were used for the division of meat by a sort of lottery or raffle. But arrows were also used for divination, i.e. for ascertaining lucky or unlucky moments, or learning the wishes of the heathen gods, as to whether men should undertake certain actions or not. All superstitions are condemned. 
(Verse 92)- (a) We are asked to obey the commands of God (which are always reasonable), instead of following superstitions (which are irrational), or seeking undue stimulation in intoxications or undue advantage in gambling. To some there may be temporary excitement or pleasure in these, but that is not the way either of prosperity or piety.  (b) See verse 67; both the worldly and the spiritual aspects of loss are pointed out. Can God’s Message do more?
(Verse 93)- There is a subtle sympathy in what appears at first sight to be a triple repetition. The relation of such simple regulations as those of food, or game, or the reverence due to a sacred place, or sacred institutions, has to be explained vis-à-vis man’s higher duties. Al-Baidhawi is right in classifying such duties under three heads: (1) those due to God; (2) those due from a man to himself (his self-respect); (3) and those due to other creatures of God. Or perhaps all duties have this threefold aspects. The first may be called Believing or Faith; the second Guarding ourselves from evil, or conscience; and the third is doing well or Righteousness. But the simplest physical rules, e.g. those about eating, cleanliness, etc, if they are good, refer also to the higher aspects. If we eat bad food, we hurt ourselves, we cause offence to our neighbors, and we disobey God. If we have Faith and righteousness, are we likely to be wanting in conscience? If we have conscience and faith, are we likely to fail in righteousness? If we have conscience and righteousness, what can be their foundation but faith? All three manifest themselves in a willing obedience to God, and love for Him. We realize His love in loving and doing good to His creatures, and our love for Him is meaningless without such good.
(Verse 94)-  Literally “know” - ليعلم - see Al-Imran verses 166 and 154. Game is forbidden in the Sacred Precincts. If we deliberately break that injunction, we have no faith and reverence.
(Verse 95)- (a) See verse 2. The pilgrim garb –Ihram- has been explained in Surat Al-Bagara 2 verse 196.  (b) For an inadvertent breach of the game rule there is apparently no penalty. Intentional breach will be prevented –if possible- by previous action. If in some case the preventive action is not effective, the penalty is prescribed. The penalty is in three alternatives: an equivalent animal should be brought to the Ka’aba for sacrifice; if so, the meat would be distributed to the poor; or the poor must be fed with grain or money, according to the value of the animal if one had been sacrificed; or the offender must fast as many days as the number of the poor who have been fed under the second alternative. Probably the last alternative would only be open if the offender is too poor to afford the first or second, but on this point commentators are not agreed. The “equivalent animal” in the first alternative would be a domestic animal of similar value or weight in meat or of similar shape, (e.g. goat to antelope), as adjudged by two just men on the spot. The alternative about the penalty and its remission (“God forgives what is past”) or exaction explain the last two lines of the verse: being “Exalted and Lord of Retribution”. God can remit or regulate according to His just laws.
(Verse 96)- Water-Game: i.e. game found in water, e.g. water-fowl, fish, etc. “water” includes sea, river, lake, pond, etc.
(Verse 97-98-99)- (A) – The Sacred prohibited months are explained in Al-Bagara 2 verse 194(Haram: - prohibited, sacred. The month of the Pilgrimage (Zul-il-hijja) was sacred month, in which warfare was prohibited by Arab custom. The month preceding (Zul-al-Ga’ada) and the month following (Muharram) were included in the prohibition, and Muharram was specially called (al-haram). Possibly Muharram is meant in the first line, and the other months and other prohibited things in “all things prohibited”. In Rajab, also war was prohibited. If the Pagan enemies of Islam broke that custom and made war in the prohibited months, the Muslims were free also to break that custom, but only to the same extent as the others broke it. Similarly the territory of Mecca was sacred, in which war was prohibited. If the enemies of Islam broke that custom, the Muslims were free to do so to that extent. Any convention is useless if one party does not respect it. There must be a law of quality. Or perhaps the word reciprocity may express it better). (B) See verse 3. (C) All sorts of people from all parts of the earth gather during the Pilgrimage. They must not think that they are strangers, that nobody knows them, and that they may behave as they like. It is the House of God, and He has supreme knowledge of all things, of all thoughts, and all motives. As the verses say, while He is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful, He is also strict in enforcing respect for His ordinances.
(Verse 100)- See Al-Bagara 2 verse 204. People often judge by quantity rather than quality. They are dazzled by numbers; their hearts are captured by what they see everywhere around them. But the man of understanding and discrimination judges by a different standard. He knows that good and bad things are not to be lumped together, and carefully chooses the best, which may be the scarcest, and avoids the bad, though evil may meet him at every step.